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Robert Giddings
Tribune, December 2008

This seventh CD of Naxos’ very rewarding John McCormack recordings is a mixed bag of marvellous items representing the considerable range of the legendary Irish’s tenor art…
This disc offers you McCormack in opera —Wagner (“The Prize Song” from The Mastersingers), items from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann, Balfe (The Bohemian Girl—a favourite opera of Sir Thomas Beecham’s), as well as a super arrangement of “The Star Spangled Banner” (McCormack became an American citizen), some Faure and Mehul, as well as a good sprinkling of Irish and some sentimental numbers (“There’s a Long, Long Trail a Winding” and “Keep the Home Fires Burning”). We may recognise his supremacy in oratorio from his singing of Allitson’s “The Lord is My Light”. And who can resist ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”?  While some of the arrangements are bit schmaltzy (one of them ennobled by the playing of Fritz Kreisler), that is fine—in moderate doses.

One thing is quite clear from this disc. McCormack always gave his best and had his heart in all that he did. He always said that he only ever sang music that he wanted to sing. And the great thing about these acoustic recordings is that you can really truly appreciate his wonderful voice. Pope Pius XI made him a count in appreciation of his work for Roman Catholic charities. John McCormack was a true aristocrat of song.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2008

John McCormack was the operatic ‘pop’ star of his time, though much of his public adoration came through his recordings of sentimental ballads.

Born in Ireland in 1884 and at first self-taught, he moved to Italy to seek further vocal training and was soon engaged by provincial opera companies. It was his appearances at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden that brought him to international attention, and it was soon followed by an invitation to appear at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. It was a voice that is an acquired taste, his lyric quality never able to shake off the Irish brogue that coloured almost everything he performed. He brought his stage career to an end in his mid-thirties, his opera acting being, by his own admission, quite dreadful. From therein he concentrated on concert appearances, his recordings of Irish traditional folk songs and English ballads being the top selling discs of the day. The present release covers his acoustic recordings made over the period 1916–18 and is mainly devoted to songs, many, such as Keep the Home Fires Burning, Send me Away with a Smile and The Trumpet Call, made to boost morale at a difficult time in the First World War. There is also his great hit, When Irish Eyes are Smiling, while Ireland, My Ireland recalled his homeland. But the gem of the disc is an English translation of the Prize Song from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, where he uses a totally different tonal quality. The sound was good for its era, the Victor Orchestra not the usually puny sound you might expect. Much of this is due to the remarkable new transfers to CD made by Ward Marston. One for dedicated McCormack fans.

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